Archive for July 2013

Secrets of the Deep Blue Sea

blog by Robyn Wyman-Dill

I marvel at the shell.  Made mainly of calcium carbonate. As the primary residence for zillions of single family mollusks (Over 100,000 species occupy shells), it is – indeed – an architectural wonder and to boot, built to last several geologic generations.

Crafted by nature in stages, shells are a diverse community of shapes and sizes.  Each species has its own signature design and unique properties. Consider the oyster who bares the pearl. Or, the roar of the ocean captured inside a Conch Shell.

I marvel at the shell in its ice cream cornet cones, butterfly, Gaudi spiral and fan-shaped varieties.  My favorite is the scallop shell. Symmetrically perfect. With a beauty that has been inspiring artists for centuries. (In Botticelli’s tribute to the Roman goddess of love and fertility, he painted Venus standing on an open scallop shell).   It appears the scallop shell has symbolized a protective and nurturing quality throughout antiquity.

Scallops are really free-living creatures.  They do not attach themselves to rocks or other stationary objects – as you might suspect.  They roam.

There are around 350 species of scallops.

Active swimmers, they are also very observant creatures with close to 100 eyes. Each eye has two retinas designed to ‘protect and serve’ the scallop in matters of safety in his environment.  One retina responds to abrupt darkness.  The other – light.  This advantage – and a little luck – will extend their lifespan up to 20 years.

Why do they taste so delicious? They feast on foods like seagrass, plankton and shrimp. Creating delicate flavor.

Bay scallops are known for their tenderness and sweet finish.   While their meatier, deeper water cousins – the sea scallops – are larger in size with a nutty, more pronounced flavor.

In Europe, scallops are consumed with their coral or eggs.  In the U.S., scallops come already cleaned with the coral removed and shucked from their shells.

Every November marks the opening of the Coquilles Saint-Jacques season in France.  The best French scallops come from Quiberon off the southern coast of Brittany.

America’s Northwest is still the world’s largest wild Atlantic Sea Scallops fishery.

The North Atlantic Sea Scallop is harvested year round offshore from Newfoundland to North Carolina.  TheBay (or Cape) Scallops is harvested from mid-October through March in the shallow bays off Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Peconic Bay off Long Island.

While working on a Heritage cookbook recently, I tested four scallop recipes for Coquille St. Jacques. Some called for cognac and cream. Breadcrumbs were another option. Add mushrooms and chopped onions.  Gruyere cheese (I tried it with shaved parmesan cheese) is quite popular too.

Coquille St. Jacques became a classic in French cuisine sometime around the middle ages when Europeans made pilgrimages to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela to pray before St. Jacques the Greater’s body. Devout visitors served Coquille St. Jacques in place of meat during penance.

Coquille St. Jacques is traditionally served as an hors d’oeuvre or appetizer.

I found I preferred using fresh sea scallops which I seared with shallots and garlic in olive oil on the stovetop over a medium heat – spiced with sea salt and cracked pepper. You may or may not add a tablespoon of butter(Again, it’s not necessary) and a sprig of parsley or a bay leaf. Now, the rule of thumb is to not cook scallops above a simmer. That way you have a better chance of keeping them tender. I like to live on the wild side and sear mine on both sides first and then I simmer. (If you post a request, I will forward you the recipe).

The scallops should remain in the pan and soak in the spices for a minute more – without a flame – so they continue cooking slowly.

To know when the a scallop is perfectly done, you simply press your finger on the top of each one.  Ouch! Try using the flat side of a knife.  A springy response is a good thing. You do not want it firm or stiff this one time.  That means the meat is tough.  I suggest slightly firm.

Scallops can be purchased fresh, wet or day packed.  Choose fresh or dry packs, whenever possible. Dry-packed scallops are packed in their natural state. Whereas wet scallops have been soaked in phosphates to keep them looking white – affecting their flavor and weight. The water absorbed will release during cooking.

Clean them.  Drain and rinse wet and fresh scallops thoroughly before you use them.  Frozen scallops need to be thawed first.  Then, pat them dry.  You do not need to rinse dry packed scallops.

I cut my fresh jumbo-sized from Ralph’s into four pieces and cooked them in white wine(dry vermouth will also work) with an herb mixture on broil in

the toaster oven for three minutes with white cheddar or shaved Parmesan cheese till it browned on top.  

Stay Tuned.

Dealt Lemons? Don’t Squeeze – Head for Lemonade

blog by Robyn Wyman-Dill

 

There is much cause for celebration this month with some significant due dates nearing. As you well know, the whole world is aflutter with anticipation over the imminent arrival of a new Royal.  Meanwhile, behind the Orange county curtain, food connoisseurs of seasonal comfort foods are equally excited about the newest addition to the Lemonade restaurant family – opening here mid-month.  Read the rest of this entry »

Wooden Spoon and Heavy Metal

blog by Robyn Wyman-Dill

This is the story of two spoons.  Wooden Spoon and Heavy Metal.

Wooden Spoon is a natural blonde with roots in a long, rich heritage.  Heavy Metal is from the masses of manufactured stock, dating back to the 20th century.  Read the rest of this entry »